The Obama administration is expanding an effort to check the populations of local jails for illegal immigrants, a move that could significantly expand the number facing deportation hearings. Currently, many local police jurisdictions lack either the time or the resources to verify the immigration status of those in custody.
Secure Communities is less controversial than other efforts that enlist local law enforcement to fight illegal immigration. That may be, immigration advocates say privately, because even the staunchest immigrants’ rights groups are wary of advocating too strongly for illegal immigrants who are behind bars, since it could undermine their larger efforts. Still, critics of the new program contend that it will lead to racial profiling. Last month, a coalition of immigrant rights groups wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and told her that the program “creates an incentive for police to arrest people on pretextual or minor crimes so that their immigration status can be checked.” The program “will likely lead to unlawful racial and ethnic profiling,” the coalition said.